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Two Truths in Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense

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  1. Introduction
  2. Review
  3. Conclusion

A common criticism brought against Nietzsche, especially regarding his essay On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense, is that Nietzsche seems to wholly refute the idea of an objective truth and to simultaneously express his own ideas and opinions with a confidence and assertion as if to suggest a truth. However, I think (and will argue in the first body paragraph) that this contradiction is only apparent,in that two ideas share a single name and Nietzsche differentiates between two different ?truths:? (1) Collective Truth?truth by definition, based on society's interpretations and conveyed through words; the truth that a group creates as a means of communication and security among its individuals.(2) Individual Truth?the objective truth only in the sense that it can only be subjective and true, only for the one. Relayed through a comparison of the two Truths, the point Nietzsche makes is that, although both truths are based on a type of self-deception (explained in the second body paragraph), it is the second truth?that of the man of intuition, the individual?that is worth pursuing, that is the only one for a human being to live in a way that he calls life-affirming (final body paragraph).

[...] The second truth Nietzsche mentions is the Individual Truth. This truth is not categorical or ordered on any great scale, as human beings are typically most comfortable with, but rather subjective, i.e. this truth is true only in each single thing ?in itself.? Whereas the scientific truth ?comes into being by making equivalent that which is nonequivalent? (145), by ordering many individuals and similar things into a single category (into a ?truth?), the individual truth ?know[s] neither forms nor concepts and hence no species, but only an ?X' which is inaccessible to us and indefinable to us? (145), i.e., separate if not opposite of societal truth. [...]

[...] Nietzsche's On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense is an examination of what society commonly refers to as ?truth,? in this essay generally identified as Collective Truth. He condemns such truths as ?illusions of which we have forgotten they are illusions? (146), as stemming from ?the obligation to lie in accordance with firmly established convention, to lie en masse and in a style that is binding for all? (146). It is seemingly contradictory, then, when 1 Nietzsche's opinions come across very direct and confident as though he considers them to be truths themselves. [...]

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